Group home is not alone
Recent developments in the City of Elk Grove make it clear that it is time to re-evaluate the policy of housing juvenile sex offenders in residential neighborhoods.
Recently, a group home quietly opened its doors to convicted sexual predators in the middle of suburban Elk Grove, just yards away from Arthur Butler Elementary School. The operators of the home brought in the worst kinds of offenders the California Youth Authority has to offer. Child molesters and rapists could be housed right around the corner from the local playground. Law-enforcement authorities consider these juveniles too dangerous to attend public schools, but state officials have placed the youths in a quiet community, unfettered by lock and key.
Despite the expressed view of some government officials that this is simply a not-in-my-backyard problem, Elk Grove residents have legitimate concerns about the way this and other group homes affect the surrounding area. Group homes affect property values, increase traffic and drastically change the character of neighborhoods. The criminal residents of these group homes can be a nuisance or, worse, a danger to neighborhood children.
The state of California has a duty to provide oversight and housing for sex offenders, but it has no right to target residential neighborhoods arbitrarily. There are more appropriate places to provide these services.
Concerns about our families’ safety are clearly the most serious concerns raised by these homes, but there are others, as well. For example, when a family buys a house in a neighborhood zoned for single-family homes, with deed restrictions to prevent the operation of businesses and multi-family housing, that family has a right to expect that those rules will be followed. Residents’ very reasonable expectation is that the character of their community will be maintained.
If the residents of the subdivision knew that group homes for criminals could be established in their neighborhood, I doubt many would decide to raise their families there.
Our laws simply need to be changed to ensure that communities are provided notice and are allowed a say as to when and where a juvenile group home may be located. In the next legislative session, I will introduce a bill to require such notice. We do this for adult criminals; we should do the same for juveniles.